Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.
"Do Al Gore or George W. Bush light your fire? Is either Bill Bradley or John McCain your idea of millennial political nirvana? Is this all there is? One way to shake up business-as-usual is to get Ralph Nader to run for president."
"Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the bizarre sphere of product advertising. Our guide in this surreal world is Consumer Reports magazine, which keeps finding the Black Holes that swallow any shred of truth in ads."
"S395 -- the 'Stop Illegal Steel Act,' which would end the foreign steel dumping that has cost thousands of American jobs -- has passed the U.S. House. But the White House is trying to kill S395. Who's side is Clinton on?"
Hightower writes: "The whiz-bang managers at Long-Term Capital, a $90 billion Wall Street fund, didn't invest in factories, research and development, home building, or anything else productive. Instead, they played a form of Wall Street roulette. But they bet wrong ... and crapped out."
Hightower writes: "For $1,000 a person, plus travel expenses, an 'executive trainer' leads a tour of managers out to some historic war zone, where they are instructed in the management styles of battlefield commanders."
HIGHTOWER writes: "For decades, conventional wisdom has said that the only source of economic growth for rural communities is big business. So, area after area has gone hat-in-hand to corporate executives, offering tax breaks, low-wage workers and other giveaways if only the corporation would move a factory to their area. But now the companies are stiffing the towns that wooed them, moving their factories to Asia, abandoning the locals."
Hightower writes: "I've gotten my holiday shopping done, thanks to the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. Wondering how to find something for your mom that's a step above another gadget for the kitchen? Well, right up front in the catalog is a dazzling diamond necklace that'll make her the talk of the Luby's Crowd the next time she steps out to dinner ... Yes it's a little pricey at $620,000 -- but, hey, you've only got one mom."
Hightower writes, "According to Business Week magazine, U.S. corporate chieftains and the Chinese leadership consider Jim Sasser, former U.S. Senator who's now our Ambassador to China, to be one "helluva guy." That's because he considers it his ambassadorial duty to help more of our corporations move investment dollars, factories and jobs to China, and he's been working like a beaver to provide the bridge that connects the companies to the Chinese."
Hightower writes, "Common sense is a stranger among America's economic leaders. Wall Street celebrates every time the workaday majority in our country gets socked. Newt Gingrich says the power of working families to organize into unions should be cut back. Bill Clinton brags that the economy is the best it ever has been. Alan Greenspan complains that economic growth needs to be slowed down. If ignorance is bliss, these people must be ecstatic."
Hightower writes, "Our president met cordially with the dictators and corporate exploiters who profit phenomenally from a wage-scale that mires these workers in abject poverty, even while it takes jobs from our country. And all the while Clinton hailed the 'glorious global good' of FREE TRADE."
Jim Hightower writes, "Advertisers are beaming their sales pitches at you from all kinds of unexpected spots these days, including from police cars. Police in Crown Point, Indiana, for example, are raising revenues for lights and sirens by selling space on their cars, including ads for a car wash and a funeral home. The commercialized cop caper is just part of the retailing of local government, as public budget cutbacks have left front-line officials scrambling for funds."
Newsweek magazine has just come out with a divine new term to pigeonhole those well-educated, well-positioned and well-heeled swells who are still scrambling upward on America's "success ladder." Introducing: "The Overclass."
"By decreeing that presidential hopefuls will only be allowed to join national debates if polls show they have the support of 15 percent of voters, the Commission on Presidential Debates has assured that only the Democrats and Republicans will be presented to the public."
Those who still cling to the Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy that there's nothing really wrong with America's big-money system for financing our elections need to meet Alexandra and Hannah Wallin. When these twin sisters each gave $1,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, they were three years old.
"The biotech giants, led by DuPont, Monsanto, and Novartis, have genetically-altered a seed that produces corn with Bt toxin throughout the plant. It was only supposed to kill the pesky corn borer, but -- oops! -- turns out that the pollen from the Bt corn kills monarch butterflies."
"Corporations are moving into pork production on a HUGE scale, and what a mess they're making. North Carolina, for example, is now awash in 38 billion pounds of hog feces and urine. That's more waste than the city of Charlotte generates in 58 years!"
Hightower writes: "The dirty little secret behind Ralph Lauren's $10 million 'philanthropy' is that it's the product of thievery. He pays 23-cents an hour to impoverished Chinese women to make shirts he then sells for fifty bucks a pop. Some philanthropist."
Hightower writes: "The $40 billion taxpayer bailout of Indonesia has gone from ugly ... to disgusting ... to obscene ... to 'perverse.' Start with 'ugly.' The economic collapse in this sprawling nation was caused by international bankers and speculators who shoved billions into high-risk, get-rich-quick schemes there. These speculators made a killing, until last year, when their boom went bust."
Hightower writes: "Top executives at Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and all the other high-rolling Wall Street firms pull down about $200,000-$500,000 a year in salaries, which ain't bad. But the real gravy is ladled out to them in end-of-the-year bonuses, and this year's holiday bonanza is the richest in history, with Wall Street's brokerage houses and banks serving up billions of dollars to those at the top."
Hightower writes, "Nike advises us in its shoe ads to 'Just Do It.' Well, a stunning new report reveals that Nike definately practices what it preaches -- the company 'does it' big-time to the Asian girls and young women who work in the sweatshops making Nikes."
Hightower writes, "It's 1997 -- Do you know who's soliciting your children? Brand-name marketers, that's who, creeping into your home through the wide-open window of your computer, getting your children to reveal private consumer information about your family and manipulating them to demand the companies' products."
Jim Hightower writes, "So why did the U.S. reach out to slap Saddam Hussein at this particular time? Politics of course, since the move helps Clinton look strong as commander-in-chief. But, there's another big factor that the establishment media didn't cover: oil. Call me a cynic, but isn't it a curious coincidence that this is the very month that Iraq was to be allowed by the United Nations to start shipping 700,000 barrels a day of their crude oil into the international pipelines?"
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) issued a report that says that the American public's anxiety over layoffs has been exaggerated. But it turns out that the CED is a research front funded by AT&T, BankAmerica and 250 other major corporations -- the very companies who did the layoffs. Here we go again: another national election where both parties conspire with Wall Street to avoid the biggest issue affecting our streets. And they wonder why people don't vote!
Jim Hightower writes, "don't run ads or go to the unemployment agency for workers -- got to your state prison! Cheap? We're talking as little as 20-cents an hour, with no health care, pensions or any of that other nonsense that workers on the outside want. And these guys always show-up on time, they can't talk back and they won't be joining any of those pesky unions. Plus, you can even put a 'Made in the USA' label on the products they make for you."
Hightower writes: "The United States Drug War, with its multibillion-dollar budget, its high-tech arsenal and its use of the U.S. military on American soil has gunned down Ezequiel Hernandez Jr. just outside of Redford, Texas, right on the Mexican border ... What we have here is not merely a personal tragedy, but an infuriating example of a grossly-wasteful, misdirected and monstrous 'drug war' that essentially is making criminals out of innocents and now has murdered an 18-year old goat herder outside of his own home."
"A billion dollars was stuffed into the 'Defense' budget to provide luxury class travel for the nine top-ranking military commanders. These planes are not to take the generals to the front, God Forbid, but to scoot them back and forth to meetings here in the states and, who knows, maybe even to top policy golf outings. "
Hightower writes: "Several years ago, the US Postal Service shifted from being a public agency to a quasi-governmental corporation -- and ever since, its honchos have bragged that they now run the Post Office like a private business. Do they ever!"
Hightower writes: "Let's say that you make a million bucks a year during each of your 45 years at the grindstone. So $45 million bucks is what you get after a lifetime of work. Not bad . . . but barely a third of Ted's $120-million, one-day haul."
Hightower writes: "The Media Laboratory of the prestigious Masachusetts Institute of Technology has now made the breakthrough many have longed for: Wearable Technology ... 'The Heartthrob Brooch' is a chunk of jewelery, encrusted with diamonds and rubies. But this brooch doesn't just set there glittering -- it pulsates."
Hightower writes, "Butte [Montana] is the town that Anaconda Copper Company ate, literally devouring the hillsides, gouging out enormous pits and fouling the water so badly with arsenic, manganese, lead, zinc and, of course, copper that the whole place is now America's biggest superfund clean-up site. ... The hardy folks of Butte hope that the National Park Service will designate -- and fund -- their polluted pits, slag heaps and waste dumps as a historic site."
Hightower writes, "There have been headlines recently about the stunning levels of paychecks that corporate executives pocketed last year -- averaging a 54 percent increase over the previous year. Behind the headlines, though, is an even more stunning story, which is that these huge payoffs often were a reward for layoffs. You see, most of a CEO's pay these days is not in salary or bonus, but in a category called 'stock options.' Under this scheme, the Big Cheese is awarded a giant block of the company's stock; if the price goes up, the exec cashes-in big-time."
In the wake of "downsizing mania," corporate performance has been hurt by discarding many valuable employees. Companies are bringing in millions of new workers who are paid less, get few, if any, benefits, and have no long-term future with the company. Instead of calling these folks what they are -- corporate serfs -- the jargoneers have come-up with more doublespeak: "contingency workers."
Hightower writes, "On a lot of issues, I look at Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and see almost no difference between them. One is Tweedledumb and the other is Tweedledumber. Take trade policy. These two guys were thick as thieves when it came to hanging the twin albatrosses of NAFTA and GATT around America's neck, and both continue to sing in perfect harmony about the glories of the New Global Economy. "
Jim Hightower introduces us to two ex-Senators who have now become well paid lobbyists. He writes, "Take Dennis DeConcini. Today, you can find him walking the same corridors of power, still huddling with other senators in private conversations, still using the Senate gym and eating in the senators' dining room -- and still going onto the Senate floor whenever he wants. But now, instead of wearing a senator's suit, he wears a lobbyist's suit, using the privileges of an ex-senator to get access to his former colleagues. Another one is Steve Symms, an Idaho Republican who was not much of a senator, and his lobbying work is even less distinguished. It's not just that he is using his senatorial contacts to line his own pocket, but that he is doing so for the likes of Nigeria's brutal military dictators."